Royal Oak, Dovercourt
Attendance: 80 (rough head count)
Match Rating: 3
Harwich and Parkeston currently ply their trade in the Premier Division of the Essex and Suffolk Border League and they did apply for promotion back to the Eastern Counties League last season, but only finished in fifth place and local neighbours Little Oakley made the step up instead as champions. Nonetheless, it is great to see Harwich heading back in the right direction after years when their very existence has looked in grave danger. FC Clacton had a poor season in the Eastern Counties League Premier Division and were due to be relegated having finished second bottom, but were reprieved thanks to an expansion of the division.
On a mainly overcast afternoon, it was a case of third time lucky for me with friendly games so far this season, following one goal in the two games seen so far. This was a competitive, feisty match, particularly during the first half when there were a few square-ups, and the Clacton number 10 seemed to be sent to the sin bin to calm down. Harwich opened the scoring on 22 minutes when a cross on the gallop from the right was headed home at the far post. Clacton almost equalised within a couple of minutes when a flicked pass sent the forward through on goal but the keeper got a hand to the near post shot and diverted the ball just wide of the post. But on 31 minutes, Harwich doubled their lead when their striker received a ball forward and showed good footwork to create some space before firing low past the keeper. They really should have made it three on 37 minutes when, following another cross from the right, the striker at the far post couldn’t keep his shot down with the goal at his mercy a few yards out.
So a comfortable and deserved half time lead for Harwich, but as both teams made a host of changes at the break, so the balance of play tilted heavily towards the visitors. On 55 minutes, Clacton pulled a goal back with a slightly fortunate goal. A loopy cross from the right evaded everyone and bounced back off the far post, allowing a simple tap in. Seven minutes later and a ball over the top set a striker clear of the defence but his cross shot came back off the far post. But on 69 minutes, Clacton were level. Another dinked ball over the defence set the striker through and he gently lobbed the ball over the onrushing keeper and into the net. On 86 minutes, the comeback was complete as Clacton took the lead. The Harwich keeper and defender got in a tangle when dealing with an onrushing striker, who the chipped the ball into the empty net. A minute from time and a Clacton striker span away from the last man, who then cynically tripped the striker and was shown a straight red card. But the free kick came to nothing and Clacton saw out the remaining minutes quite comfortably.
So this was very much a game of two halves, and Harwich will take great heart from putting in an excellent performance against senior opposition particularly in the first half. Clacton had a first half to forget, and while the second half was evidently an improvement, it was still far from a convincing performance with the league season just a week away.